"Approach Shots" is Ricky's weekly look at what's ahead on the ATP Tour.
The French Open is one week away, which is good news for the tennis world but bad news for the pair of tune-up events in Nice and Dusseldorf. Pre-Grand Slam fields always leave a lot to be desired, and these are no exceptions. Not too surprisingly, every single player in the Top 10 is resting for Roland Garros (Tomas Berdych had been entered in Nice but he withdrew following a semifinal finish in Rome).
On the bright side for local tournament-goers, however, their countrymen will have great opportunities for success this week. In Nice, Gilles Simon is the highest-ranked player in the draw and Gael Monfils is coming off a Challenger title on the clay courts of Bordeaux. In Dusseldorf, Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber are two of the top title favorites.
Open de Nice Cote d’Azur
Where: Nice, France
Prize money: 467,800 Euros
Top seed: Gilles Simon (No. 1 seed Tomas Berdych withdrew)
2012 champion: Nicolas Almagro (not playing)
Draw analysis: Now that Berdych is out of the tournament, this could be the most lopsided draw of the year--and that includes what we just saw in Rome. The bottom half features Simon, Monfils, John Isner, Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Lleyton Hewitt, and Pablo Andujar. Simon and Seppi are on course for a quarterfinal collision while Isner has a first-round bye in what looks like a rough third section of the bracket. Monfils and Fognini could have a rematch of their memorable 2012 French Open five-setter as early as the second round, with the winner to possibly face Isner in the last eight. The 6'9'' American would first have to get past either Robin Haase or Marinko Matosevic.
As for the top half, it was already a borderline joke even before this weekend. Then Berdych pulled out and No. 8 seed Denis Istomin got blown out by Ricardas Berankis, so it's only Sunday afternoon and just two seeds remain. Sam Querrey has an outstanding draw in the second quarter, opening with one of two qualifiers before likely running into Berankis. At the top of the bracket, Montanes is in for Berdych. The Spaniard is part of a deep but unspectacular group seeking a completely up-for-grabs quarterfinal ticket. Other contenders include Marcel Granollers, Albert Ramos, Carlos Berlocq, and Paul-Henri Mathieu.
First-round upset alert: Paul-Henri Mathieu over (7) Marcel Granollers. Granollers has never lost to Mathieu in three matches, but of their last two meetings (both at the French Open, in 2010 and 2012), one ended in retirement and another went to five sets. Meanwhile, the Spaniard's run to the Rome quarterfinals last week should not be overestimated. He played terribly before getting a retirement from Andy Murray and other than that he had a favorable draw that included Nikolay Davydenko, Jeremy Chardy, and even Benoit Paire (to whom he lost 6-1, 6-0). Even though Mathieu is in horrendous form at the moment, an upset is not out of the question--especially since he is playing at home in France.
Hot: Fabio Fognini, Albert Ramos
Cold: Paul-Henri Mathieu, Leonardo Mayer, Gael Monfils
Semifinal predictions: Carlos Berlocq over Sam Querrey and Andreas Seppi over Gael Monfils
Final: Seppi over Berlocq
Power Horse Cup
Where: Dusseldorf, Germany
Prize money: 467,800 Euros
Top Seed: Janko Tipsarevic
Defending champion: Inaugural event
Draw analysis: The German fans cannot be too pleased with how the draw ceremony unfolded. Haas and Kohlschreiber, who have first-round byes as top four seeds, are in the same half of the draw along with an in-form Daniel Brands (Brands ousted fifth-seeded Lukas Rosol on Sunday). Kohlschreiber could face Brands in the quarters before a possible semifinal showdown against Haas. It's not exactly a favorable draw for Haas from start to finish. Ivan Dodig would likely be a difficult first opponent and potential quarterfinal adversary Jarkko Nieminen has been playing stellar tennis in 2013 (including a five-set win over the German at the Australian Open).
Additional German misfortune in the top half of the bracket includes a matchup right off the bat between Tobias Kamke and Benjamin Becker. In such a wide-open part of the draw, either one of those two men could conceivably make a run--but one will be out even before the second round. With No. 1 seed Janko Tipsarevic in brutal form, Juan Monaco (who has emerged from a slump of his own) has to be a favorite to reach the final (along with Haas in the bottom half). Tipsarevic's section presents a big chance for either Viktor Troicki or David Goffin, while Monaco may not have much trouble at any point in a weak second quarter.
First-round upset alert: Dmitry Tursunov over (8) Nikolay Davydenko. Davydenko is a perfect 5-0 in the head-to-head series and he has won 11 of 12 career sets against his fellow Russian. However, all five of their meetings came between 2004 and 2008--an era during which Davydenko was often in PlayStation mode. Now, of course, the 31-year-old is a shadow of his former self. Tursunov, 30, is by no means in the prime of his career after a whole host of injuries, but he is at least going in the right direction--unlike his opponent. The former world No. 20 owns 10 ATP-level wins this season and he recently advanced to the Barcelona third round as a qualifier.
Hot: Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Lukas Rosol, Daniel Brands
Cold: Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, Nikolay Davydenko, Gilles Muller, Go Soeda, Evgeny Donskoy
Semifinal predictions: Juan Monaco over David Goffin and Tommy Haas over Daniel Brands
Final: Monaco over Haas
Comments and your own predictions are appreciated!
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|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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